I haven't seen much of the town yet, but I'm not sure how much there is to see that I haven't seen already. It's the epitome of rural quaint. Understand that this isn't a complaint: it's big enough to actually have life, but it has a fiercely local character to it. I've seen a couple of local book stores (one large one, and a small one which intriguingly described itself as "author owned"), a fair number of restaurants, and a coffee shop up the road named "The Coffee Critic." But the downtown area appears to be completely free of chain stores. Just before the city limits, there was a tasteful-as-such-things go strip mall with a Safeway and a fast food place or two, but that's about it.
It's a beautiful view here, too. Ukiah's in a valley ("in the heart of Mendocino County and the Redwood Empire," the city website proclaims), and it's a far smaller valley than the one San Jose's in, of course--so I'm looking east down Perkins Street at mountains in the very near distance.
And my food just came--just a burger and fries, but perfectly done thin fries and a juicy, seared burger topped with Monterey Jack, paper-thin red onions and pickles I'm pretty sure were made here. I also see that this place has live music, and that a Celtic Rock band I know of, Tempest, is playing here next month.
I think if I did move to Ukiah, I'd be here weekly.
Tugrik told me at one point that Ukiah was so named because it's "Haiku" spelled backwards, named by hippies who migrated up here from the Bay Area, perhaps following the whales along the coastline. There are definite signs of hippiness around here, just like there are in many rural northern California town--the occasional massage or yoga parlor, the book stores prominently featuring very "liberal" titles (no bookstore in Idaho would likely have Hillary Clinton's Living History in the window), and for that matter, an organic brew pub. Even so, it seems the name is amusing coincidence, not a conscious play on words--the building the pub is in dates back to 1870, and the town had a rail line by 1889 and was a prosperous lumber town going into the twentieth century. It's not been a boom town by twenty-first century standards, though; its population was around 6,000 by 1950, and around 15,500 in 2000. Lumber is still a big industry, although vineyards are surpassing it.
Lunch is over and it's time to do some more exploring, both of Ukiah specifically and the area in general--I may see if I can drive into the "lost coast," or at least near it. I think I'm a bit south and it's already 3:00 p.m., so I don't have a whole lot of light left, even though it's a beautiful day out now. It was overcast in San Jose, turning to foggy as I approached San Francisco. Just past the hill right to the north of the Golden Gate, the sky opened up, and it's cloudless and blue now. I've read Ukiah isn't subject to the fogginess much of the Pacific Northwest is--I suspect thanks to its valley location, rather than being right on the coast.
Now to see if I can remember what street I parked the car on.